(in the news ::: theSun, Speak Up!, 10 Nov 2011)
WITH reference to “Bid to get new driving applicants to be organ donors” (Nov 5), I am delighted that the ministry is finally making efforts to gain more organ pledgers.
In more developed countries like the United States, New Zealand and Australia, stating your willingness to pledge organs in your driver’s licence has long been practised. A few like Spain, France, Austria, Greece, Sweden and Singapore use the opt-out system to encourage more organ donors.
However, increasing the number of pledgers has not increased the number of actual donors. Spain registers a whooping 34 donors per million population, but only 35.1 actual donors per million people. France registers 22.2 actual donors per million population.
Everywhere in the world, the number of people on the waiting list for organs has increased manyfold. Tranplantations prolong the lives of those with organ failures, and yet the same technology brings about social issues such as the ethics of organ donation, especially by living donors, as well as organ trade.
Researchers have put forward the options of using animal organs in humans, development of stem cells which could eventually be an answer to organ donation, and the development of technologies to replace human organ systems to reduce reliance on real organs. Yet, Malaysia is a long way from these technologies. More doctors should be trained and specialise in organ transplantation, if not in research.
Non-governmental organisations should also work with the government to promote awareness of the noble cause of organ donation and donation as an option in one’s driver’s licence.
The ministry should be more open-minded and look into more creative campaigns to promote awareness, other than the long, painful process of organ donation talks which keep many people away.
The corporate sector too must play a role in assisting NGOs by supporting creative campaigns and incorporate them as a corporate social responsibility. Rarely will corporate organisations look at areas like organ donation as a cause, but it will be one worthwhile to champion in more innovative methods.
In the article referred to, the ministry is said to be looking at visiting universities to get more young people to pledge. Youth are glued to the internet, which is why the ministry should consider more allocations for internet marketing of organ donation instead of by way of conventional advertisements.
Education on the prevention of organ failure should also be enhanced. When we have ugly photos on diseases due to smoking printed on cigarette boxes, could we not have such illustration on liquor bottles? Better education to protect organs should start in school.
Lastly, the effort will not be deemed complete without individual support towards the cause. Very rarely will people talk about organ donation at the mamak stall. If you are aware of organ donation but do not know where to start to pledge as a donor, start by telling your family of your decision to pledge your organs after death. Verbal consent also counts when doctors confirm a patient is brain-dead.
I am a living liver donor and have actively advocated organ donation for 18 years. I hope more support for the cause will eventually bring awareness to a higher level and save more lives.
Chew Hoong Ling